Remembering the Great War

On Sunday our community came together as one to pause and to remember all those who died during the Great War and all those who have died in conflicts that have happened since.

For everyone, different events will stand out. I felt that the creativity, compassion and care taken in acts of remembrance in this constituency were magnificent. From the sand portraits on Perranporth Beach to the poppy memorial in Portloe. From the hand-made poppies dropped from the tower inside Truro cathedral and those adorning the trees in Kimberley Park, to the silent vigil in Zelah and the lone piper in St Mawes. The floral tributes, bells ringing out from our church towers and the re-dedication and creation of new memorials, all in their own way declared our ardent desire never to forget those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, peace and way of life.

We have sought to commemorate the war in many ways over the past four years. The high profile events have been complemented by an extensive range of cultural and educational activities. In 2012 the government established the 14-18 NOW cultural programme to work with artists to tell these important stories through the mediums of culture and art. There has been a particular focus on engaging children and young people, with events including the Great War school debate series and school battlefield tours. More than 35 million people have engaged with the centenary, including 7.5 million young people under the age of 25.

Over the past four years I have really enjoyed discovering more of our local history, visiting Pendennis Castle and the local museums and history groups that have so imaginatively told the story of local people and communities during the Great War, including those who went to fight and those who were left behind. Poignant stories that had been forgotten until now. BBC Radio Cornwall did a great job in capturing so many of these local stories.

As part of the programme, the government has sought to highlight the enormous contribution made by those who came to our nation’s aid from across the world. Some 2.5 million men and women from the Commonwealth answered the call to fight, with 200,000 laying down their lives. If you haven’t yet visited the Commonwealth War Graves Commission graves in our local grave yards I encourage you to do so. They are beautifully kept and online information tells us about those buried here from all over the Commonwealth, from Canada to India.

On Friday, I am looking forward to watching Edward Rowe in his new play Hirith that explores the role of Cornish Miners in the trenches. Many poems, pieces of music and works of art have been created to tell the story of the people who came from all walks of life from every part of our community to play their part in the Great War. Over the past four years, together I think we have all done our best to remember them.

First published in the West Briton 15/11/18

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Supporting jobs at Falmouth Docks and other local businesses

I have been celebrating with A&P their success in winning a valuable ten-year MOD contract that will secure skilled employment in the docks and could enable investment for the long term in our port infrastructure.  A&P have a large supply chain of local businesses that provide goods and services to their operation so the benefit of the new £239 million contract will be felt far beyond the dock gates. 

Small and medium sized businesses are the life blood of our local economy so I listen carefully to their ideas and concerns. Two concerns often arise from our conversations; not being paid on time and the cost of utility bills, especially energy, water and telecoms. 

Following on from actions such as improvements in access to quality business advice and finance for small businesses and the appointment of the small business commissioner, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy unveiled more policies last week. 

While over the past five years the amount owed to businesses in late payments has halved, we need to make sure all our small businesses are treated fairly.  So, a new consultation seeks ideas on how best to close this unacceptable gap.  

This will help identify the most effective way possible to tackle this issue once and for all and ensure small businesses are on a level playing field with their larger counterparts. 

According to BEIS, nearly a quarter of UK businesses report late payments as a threat to their survival, and research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) indicates that tackling a late payment culture could add £2.5bn to the UK economy and keep 50,000 extra businesses open each year. 

FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Late payment is the biggest challenge affecting small businesses and it is good to see the government getting serious about this issue, especially when it comes to large firms paying their supply chains promptly. The voluntary prompt payment code is not working when it allows signatories like Carillion to pay on terms of over 120 days, so we want to see a new tough and transparent compliance regime being proposed.” 

While government is leading the way in paying its bills on time, it aims higher with a target of 90% of invoices paid within 5 days.  I am asking Cornwall Council to review its policy to enable faster payments. 

The government also announced an independent review of utilities regulators to ensure that they are fit for purpose.  It is essential that regulators develop resilient utilities, able to face the challenges and opportunities of our time as well as improve outcomes for customers.  While it has become easier to switch energy suppliers, I believe that smart regulation and smart new technology could make it even easier. All too often loyal customers have inferior deals to those offered to new customers, so it’s important that we take action to prevent people and businesses paying more than necessary and enable more switching to low or no carbon suppliers of our energy.  

First published in the West Briton 11/10/18

First World War Centenary Commemorations

Joining the local Royal British Legion for the annual services of remembrance commemorating those who served our nation as members of our armed forces, and as civilians who lost their lives, is one of the most moving responsibilities of my role as your local MP. This year will be especially moving, as we mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.  

Congratulations to the local people who have been successful in the recent ballot for the People’s Procession on Sunday 11th November. Ten thousand members of the public will march past the Cenotaph to mark the centenary of the Armistice later this year. 

In July, applications were opened to take part in ‘A Nation’s Thank you – The People’s Procession’. 

At the same time, people are being encouraged to ring bells around the world as the government is seeking to replicate the spontaneous outpouring of relief that took place in 1918. As news of the Armistice spread, church bells, which had fallen silent across the UK during the First World War, rang out in celebration. 

On the centenary of the Armistice it is right that we come together to give thanks to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and to those who returned home to help shape the world we live in today.  Sunday 11th November offers us a unique opportunity to show our appreciation for the generation who gave so much to secure this hard fought victory. This will be a fitting conclusion to four years of commemoration of the centenary of the First World War and will ensure that the stories from this important period of our history are passed down to future generations. 

Bell ringing and the People’s Procession will take place after the conclusion of The Royal British Legion’s Veteran Dispersal and March Past the Cenotaph, which follows the National Service of Remembrance on Sunday 11th  November 2018, the centenary of the end of the First World War. 

As you make plans over the coming weeks, please consider joining me in one of the processions and acts of remembrance in Cornwall which provide us all with an opportunity to give thanks to all those who served in the First World War. Their service to the nation secured the victory that helped shape the rights and privileges we enjoy today. 

Throughout the world, and here in Cornwall, the British Government, with the support of the German Government, has invited bell ringers of all kinds – church, military or any other – to ring out their bells at the following times: 

Bells in countries observing GMT and CET are invited to ring at 12.30hrs GMT (13.30hrs CET) 

Bells in countries throughout the rest of the world are invited to ring at either 12.30 GMT or 12.30pm local time 

The Government is supporting an initiative ‘Ringing Remembers’ which is run by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers. This project aims to get 1,400 people ringing church bells on the centenary of the Armistice, the number of bell ringers lost in the war. 

First published in the West Briton 04/09/18

Promoting equal access to our maritime environment and securing jobs at Falmouth Docks

The summer months more than others bring us closer to our stunning maritime environment and heritage. The recent glorious weather has enabled many more people to experience the simple pleasure of going to the beach or out onto the water. Thanks to many inspirational local people determined to build an inclusive community, more people are able to enjoy these simple pleasures. People with visible and invisible impairments and disabilities are able to get onto the water thanks to Mylor Harbour’s Sail-ability specially adapted boats. Also based in Mylor Harbour is BATs, Cornwall’s sailing club for visually impaired people.  I recently met with the Helford Sailing Trust to learn about their ambitious plans to get more people afloat.

Then there are the special sand chairs at Gyllingvase beach that enable wheelchair users access to the beach and the sea. Cornwall Mobility, in partnership with Disability Cornwall & Isles of Scilly, works with Cornwall Council as well as a diverse range of coastal charities and businesses in providing all-terrain wheelchairs, also known as sand chairs, for the public to use on a number of beaches in Cornwall.  The all-terrain wheelchairs have been designed for outdoor use and have large inflatable wheels which allow them to roll over sand and pebbles with remarkable ease. This has allowed people with mobility challenges the pleasure and freedom to access and enjoy Cornwall’s beaches where they may have found it more difficult in the past.

While the wide range of recreational water-based activities available are undoubtedly fun and good exercise as well as enhancing our local tourist economy, they do bring challenges. I was delighted to open the newly refurbished National Coast Watch look out in Gerrans recently.  Staffed by volunteers who work in partnership with RNLI and Coastguard volunteers as well as our local emergency services coordinated by the Falmouth Coastguard, they help keep us safe on the sea and around our shores and rescue people if necessary. Together they provide an excellent service in promoting safety of the water and preventing harm.

Thank you also to the Royal Naval Association for organising the annual Falmouth Sea Sunday, including the parade from the Moor, a service in King Charles the Martyr Church and a parade to Events Square.

My grandfather was an electrician at the docks in Falmouth and, having grown up here, I understand how proud many local people feel about our close association with seafaring and the Royal Navy. When I was first elected I had the privilege of joining the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme with the Navy. As someone who has not served in our armed forces, this first-hand experience has proven invaluable in my role as an MP supporting our armed forces.

As A&P is one of the largest private sector employers in Cornwall, ensuring that A&P Falmouth secures and wins naval and RFA contracts has been a top priority. By working hard and constructively with both the management and trade unions at A&P Falmouth I am proud of our record of achievement. Not only do RFA ships continue to be serviced and maintained in Falmouth, but we won a new and important contract to weaponise some of the support vessels for our two new aircraft carriers.

A&P Falmouth is working in partnership with other UK yards and doing well in advancing bids to secure additional defence contracts for the docks in Falmouth, including for the new Type 31 e frigate. I have launched a campaign for one of the new frigates to be called HMS Cornwall. I ensure that Defence Procurement Ministers visit A&P Falmouth to see at first hand the excellent work that is undertaken and the positive relationship that we have with the Royal Navy and RFA.

Since being elected I have consistently promoted the industry and was delighted to have secured A&P Falmouth’s involvement with the independent review of British Shipbuilding undertaken by Sir John Parker. All the recommendations he gave to the government for future modernisation and investment have been accepted and I am delighted that the importance to our economy of ports, including Falmouth, is recognised.

I am proud of the investment this government is making in our Navy and that new ships are being built in the UK.  I want to see more and I will continue to work with the unions and management at A&P to secure new contracts and welcome grey ships into our harbour.

First published in the Falmouth Wave August edition

Backing our Royal Navy and campaigning to keep jobs in Falmouth Docks

I would like to thank the Royal Naval Association for organising the annual Falmouth Sea Sunday, including the parade from the Moor, a service in King Charles the Martyr Church and a parade to Events Square.

My grandfather was an electrician at the docks in Falmouth and having grown up here I understand how proud many local people feel about our close association with seafaring and the Royal Navy. When I was first elected I had the privilege of joining the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme with the Navy. As someone who has not served in our armed forces, this first-hand experience has proven invaluable in my role as an MP supporting our armed forces.

As A&P is one of the largest private sector employers in Cornwall, ensuring that A&P Falmouth secures and wins naval and RFA contracts has been a top priority for me. By working hard and constructively with both the management and trade unions at A&P Falmouth I am proud of our record of achievement. Not only do RFA ships continue to be serviced and maintained in Falmouth but we won a new and important contract to weaponise some of the support vessels for our two new aircraft carriers.

A&P Falmouth are working in partnership with other U.K. yards and doing well in advancing bids to secure additional defence contracts for the docks in Falmouth, including for the new Type 31e frigate. I have launched a campaign for one of the new frigates to be called HMS Cornwall. I ensure that Defence Procurement Ministers Visit A&P Falmouth to see first-hand the excellent work that is undertaken and the positive relationship that we have with the Royal Navy and RFA.

Since being elected I have consistently promoted the industry and was delighted to have secured A&P Falmouth’s involvement with the independent review of British Shipbuilding undertaken by Sir John Parker. All the recommendations he gave to the government for future modernisation and investment have been accepted and I am delighted that the importance to our economy of ports including Falmouth is recognised.

I am proud of the investment this government is making in our navy and that new ships are being built in the U.K. I want to see more ships built in the U.K. and I will continue to work with the unions and management at A&P to secure new contracts and welcome grey ships into our harbour.

Last week in Parliament, I joined a debate led by the Labour Party about the defence industry and shipbuilding. There was no division. We only have votes when the House of Commons “divides” on an issue. As we agreed there was no division and no vote. Sadly, some Labour politicians are trying to spin the debate to create division where none exists. I hope they will rethink and put local and national interest above local Labour Party politics and back my longstanding commitment and track record of effective delivery with A&P Falmouth.

First published in the West Briton 19/07/18

Military Action in Syria

I face many challenges as your Member of Parliament, the most significant is deciding whether UK military intervention in another country should be undertaken. I fundamentally believe in our values enshrined in the rule of law and that, wherever possible, diplomacy should be used to resolve conflict. I know that any action has consequences, sometimes unforeseen, but so too does inaction.

This week we debated the recent decision to use military force to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability.

It is now almost 100 years since the treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons. We have seen nation after nation sign up to this global consensus. The universal abhorrence of chemical weapons and the programme of destruction of declared stockpiles is a considerable achievement.

In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of the Syrian regime – guaranteed to the process overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The National Security Council of the United Nations, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have seen a significant body of information that indicates that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties.

The Douma massacre is part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in four separate attacks since 2014.

The military action undertaken by the UK on Saturday was carried out to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their use. The legal basis for this intervention has been published. Many countries support this action. In degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capability the Prime Minister made her intentions clear – we want to do what we can to protect Syrian people from chemical weapons.

These carefully targeted and calibrated strikes minimising harm to Syrians were not designed to intervene in the Syrian civil war or to effect regime change.

At a time of understandable tension in our relations with Russia it has been important to stress that this action does not entail an attempt to frustrate Russian strategic objectives in Syria. 
This does not represent an escalation of UK or Western involvement in Syria.

I don’t believe the global community can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Along with partners, and as members of the EU, we have tried non-military interventions, including peace talks and sanctions.

The UN has considered resolutions but Russia has repeatedly shielded the Syrian regime from investigation and censure, vetoing six separate UN Security Council resolutions, including the UN mandated Investigative Mechanism set up to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Of course we must continue our humanitarian and diplomatic effort to support the Syrian people and to secure a political solution to the civil war in Syria but we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons with impunity.

First published in the West Briton 19/04/18

Intervention in Syria

I face many challenges as your Member of Parliament, the most significant is deciding whether UK military intervention in another country should be undertaken. I fundamentally believe in our values enshrined in the rule of law and that wherever possible diplomacy should be used to resolve conflict. I know that any action has consequences, sometimes unforeseen, but so too does inaction.

I am also a mother of three children and am acutely aware that a decision to commit our armed services personnel will be putting another mother’s son or daughter in harm’s way.

When I was elected in 2010, I joined colleagues calling for much greater Parliamentary scrutiny of national security policy and decision makers. Along with my colleagues, I shared deep concerns arising from the Labour Government’s intervention in Iraq.

The Coalition Government, led by David Cameron, put in place processes that are enabling far greater scrutiny of information – including intelligence – about our national security by MPs than was previously the case. The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is composed of cross party members and its job is to scrutinise the work of those responsible for our national security.

The members of the committee are notified under the Official Secrets Act 1989 and are given access to highly classified material in carrying out their duties. The committee holds evidence sessions with Government ministers and senior officials. The work of the committee is invariably conducted in secret, but its members do speak in debates in Parliament. I think that the work of this Committee provides MPs some assurance that decisions are being made on the best possible information.

Had this Committee with the new powers it acquired in 2013 been in operation during the Tony Blair years, I doubt so many MPs would have voted for military intervention in Iraq.

This week, like most weeks in Parliament, we will be debating the UKs role in the world, including our involvement in the Middle East and Syria in particular. We will be debating the recent decision to use military force to degrade the Syrian Regimes chemical weapons capability.

It is now almost 100 years since the treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons. We have seen nation after nation sign up to this global consensus. The universal abhorrence of chemical weapons, and the programme of destruction of declared stockpiles is a considerable achievement.

In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of Syrian Regime – guaranteed to the process overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The National Security Council of the United Nations, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have seen a significant body of information, including intelligence, that indicates that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties.

The Douma massacre is part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in four separate attacks since 2014.

The military action undertaken by the UK on Saturday was carried out to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian Regime’s Chemical Weapons capability and deterring their use. The legal basis for this intervention has been published. Many countries and organisations, including NATO and the EU, support this action. In degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities the Prime Minister made her intensions clear – we want to do what we can to protect Syrian people from chemical weapons.

These carefully targeted and calibrated strikes were not designed to intervene in the Syrian civil war or effect regime change.

At a time of understandable tension in our relations with Russia it has been important to stress that this action does not entail an attempt to frustrate Russian strategic objectives in Syria. This does not represent an escalation of UK or western involvement in Syria.

I don’t believe the global community can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Along with partners and as members of the EU, we have tried non-military interventions, including peace talks and sanctions.

The UN have considered resolutions but Russia has repeatedly shielded the Syrian Regime from investigation and censure, vetoing six separate UN Security Council resolutions, including the UN mandated Investigative Mechanism set up to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

Of course every diplomatic effort must continue to be made to secure a political solution to the civil war in Syria but we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons with impunity.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 18/04/18